An Early Fourteenth-Century Philosopher on Whether Something Can Come to Be Out of Nothing?
Antoine Côté (University of Ottawa)

February 21, 2020, 11:00am - 12:30pm
Department of Philosophy, Catholic Theological College, University of Divinity

Treacy Boardroom
278 Victoria Parade
East Melbourne 3002

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The Italian Averroist, Maino de Maineri (ca. 1290- ca. 1368), is the author, among other works, of an intriguing disputed question entitled “Whether something can come from nothing” (“utrum ex nihilo possit aliquid fieri.”) The quaestio is chiefly concerned with the problem of natural substantial change; specifically: do the substances that are produced in nature come from something pre-existent or not? Maino wants to defend what he views as Aristotle’s moderate solution to this question—according to which substances are produced by the efficient causality of natural, external agents that educe them from the pure potency of matter—against two “extreme” alternatives: the “hiddenness of forms” theory (latitatio formarum) of Anaxagoras, following whom new forms are merely the manifestation of pre-existent forms in matter—and hence not new at all—and the “creationist” view of the “three Laws.” Maino provides a competent defense of Aristotle’s theory, adducing a wide variety of texts by Aristotle and Averroes. However, the principal interest of the quaestio lies elsewhere. It is to be found in the lengthy discussion Maino devotes to the views of an unnamed near-contemporary of his who advocated a position which he describes as “very similar” to that of Anaxagoras. This near-contemporary author was identified by Charles Ermatinger in 1969 as the Augustinian Friar James of Viterbo, who was active in Paris in the 1290s, and who defended an original version of the doctrine of seminal reasons. Maino argues that Viterbo’s theory is just as wrong-headed as that of Anaxagoras. As we will see, the numerous arguments he advances in support of this claim attest to considerable philosophical acumen.


Public Transport: Trams: 109 (to Box Hill), 12 (to Victoria Gardens): Tram, stop 13 (Landsdowne St. ACU).

Buses: From City: 302, 303, 304, 305, 309, 318, 350, 905, 906, 907, 908. Stop: ACU.

Nearest Train Station: Parliament Station. Exit Macarthur St, go north until Victoria Parade, Turn right, 400 metres (CTC building corner of Victoria Parade and Eades St, - the Southern Side of Vic Parade, located across from what was until very recently - the Dallas Brooks Hall).

Parking along Vic Parade and at the ACU (on Young St).

The Treacy boardroom is on the ground floor, very close to the reception desk of the Thomas Carr Centre, which is the campus building at 278 Victoria Pde. There is a wheelchair-friendly toilet/bathroom on the same ground floor a short distance from the boardroom.

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